what to know
- Contact the phone company > request unlocking > wait a few days > remove the SIM card > insert a new SIM card from the phone company.
- To check if your iPhone is unlocked: Settings > General > On > carrier lock > No SIM restrictions.
- Unlocking your iPhone means you’re free to switch carriers without having to buy a new phone.
This article explains what it means when an iPhone is “locked” to a carrier, how to unlock your iPhone, why you should consider it, and how to tell if your iPhone is unlocked.
How to unlock your iPhone from a carrier
Your iPhone may be “locked” to your current phone company. This means that your iPhone is set to work only on one company’s network, and you can’t switch carriers without changing phones or unlocking the phone. (In this case, “unlock” refers to connecting with a phone company, without using a passcode to access your iPhone.)
Phones are locked to phone companies when you have a contract or pay a monthly plan to buy the phone (you can buy unlocked phones from Apple, among others). If you want to start using your phone with another phone company, you may qualify to unlock your iPhone if:
- You have complied with the terms of any discount or promotion applied when you received your phone.
- Your installments to buy the phone are fully paid.
- Your phone number has been active for at least 40 days (for some carriers, it’s 60 days).
- Your account is in good standing.
- The phone has not been reported stolen.
- Doesn’t ask for unlock too often.
- The phone is used with a prepaid plan, there may be additional conditions.
If you meet those conditions, follow these steps to unlock your iPhone from a carrier:
Contact your current phone company to request an unlock. Here is information about unlocking for each major carrier in the US:
Phone companies in other countries should have similar pages on their websites.
Third-party apps claim to be able to unlock your iPhone, but only your carrier can unlock a phone on their network.
It may take a few days to complete the unlock process. Check with your phone company for updates or wait to hear from them.
Once the unlock is complete, you can continue to use your iPhone with your current carrier (if so, you’re done!) or switch to another carrier at any time.
If you want to change your phone company, remove the sim card from your phone pushing the end of a paper clip (or Apple’s SIM removal tool) into the SIM card tray access hole. All recent iPhones have the SIM tray on the right or left edge of the phone.
When the SIM tray pops out, remove it completely and take out the SIM card. Insert a new SIM card from the phone company you want to move to.
The phone should activate on the new company’s network (assuming you’ve already signed up for the new service). You will see a message on the screen. Try to make a call to confirm that your phone is activated.
Reasons to unlock your iPhone
The only reason to unlock your iPhone is so you can keep your current phone and switch to a new phone company. You may be happy with your phone (or at least not interested in spending hundreds of dollars to get a new one) and want to take advantage of better coverage or better rates offered by another company.
Unlocking an iPhone does not offer any other benefits, it is not the same as jailbreakfor example, but keeping your phone while you choose a new phone company is reason enough.
Use an iPhone with more than one carrier
If you have an iPhone XS or newer and your iPhone is unlocked, you can use two phone numbers from two different carriers on your iPhone at the same time!
This is because these models add a second fully digital eSIM in addition to the physical one. SIM card (As of iPhone 14, there is no physical SIM.) This means that an iPhone can have one number for personal use and another for business calls. You can also add a temporary local number while traveling to other countries.
This only works on unlocked iPhones. On locked phones, both phone numbers must be from the same phone company. Learn all about using two phone numbers and Apple eSIM.
Frequently asked questions
How do I unlock an iPhone without a password?
How do I unlock my iPhone with an Apple Watch?
To unlock your iPhone with a paired Apple Watch, open the Settings app on your iPhone and select Face ID and passcode. Scroll down and enable Unlock with Apple Watch. Your Apple Watch must be unlocked, near your iPhone, and have a passcode enabled in order to unlock your iPhone.
How do I unlock screen rotation on an iPhone?
If your screen rotation is locked and the iPhone screen doesn’t rotate as you want, you need to unlock the feature. Launch Control Center and tap the Portrait orientation lock button to turn it off. Touch again (it will turn red) to turn it on.